Sunday, 28 October 2012

Northern Downhill Series, Kielder Forest, 20th-21st October 2012

Thought I would get you all the low down on the Northern Downhill's Kielder weekender, here we go....

As some of you may be aware I came into this season after losing my mojo and in between my injuries and crashing out I was pretty cut up with my results this year.  Therefore I was determined to pull out all of the stops with the Northern Champs at Kielder Forest, it would have to be the place to redeem myself.

As has been the story throughout most of the race weekends this year it absolutely chucked it down on the Friday and Saturday!  This was also a new track and not fully bedded in, I knew straight off that we were all in for a sloppy one!  Unfortunately due to wrangling with the good old Forestry Commission the very top of the track was not going to be used for the race, it still left a three and a half minute course though and it certainly wasn't shabby!  The NDH boys pulled out the stops with the amazing RedBull Rampage-style start ramp which rolled you off a high drop straight into the first shoot, excellent! 

The top section was the biggest, gnarliest rock garden I've seen so far in the UK, this would be a real test my TF Tuned tweaked suspension and X-Fusion shock.  The rock garden was incredibly physically demanding and caused a lot of riders a lot of issues, so much so a load of riders pulled out of racing altogether!  I must add here that I have nothing but respect for Carl Davison and the Northern Downhill boys who put these courses together, it's not the first time they've had riders pull out due to so-called 'extreme' sections, however how are riders to progress in this sport if they are not being challenged by this terrain? 

We did say it was muddy! Photo by Richard Easton

The track crossed into the woods which were quite dark with a lot of tricky roots to negotiate. The main trick at the bottom was keep your speed up and keep pedalling otherwise you got bogged down in the mud which became worse as the weekend progressed.

My first race run went half-decently with a few errors and one big stop in the slop which took a lot of effort to get going afterwards.  I finished in third place with my first run, because of this I knew other people were struggling with the course's worsening conditions and I was keen on trying to go faster then the other two riders on my final run.  From the start of the second run I was being thrown all over the place, it was really hard going, I did however stay steady, no stops, no stalls, just took it all as it came, the course was a complete mess of mud, roots and rocks.  No-one bettered the times of their previous runs and I remained in third place, more importantly however I was the Northern Champion for 2012!

Photo by Stewart Dickson

The course conditions were damned tough, the combination of an unbedded in new track and the weather playing havoc! The bike however worked like a dream, I am over the moon with the X-Fusion shock, it came into its own, combined with the TF Tuned forks the whole suspension set up was incredibly supple across the weekend, couldn't fault it.

I would like to say a massive 'Thank You' to everyone who has supported me through the year:

Firstly and foremost Frank Wadelton for supporting me with his brilliant FB10 frames, the guy is a legend, a Mountain Bike Hall of Fame inductee and an all round lovely bloke, thank you so much Frank.

Then up in no particular order:

Help for Heroes Race, Hamsterley Forest, 29th September 2012

The Development support the majority of races being held at Hamsterley Forest in County Durham, in the North-East of the UK.  The team has a long standing connection with the forest, from building courses, assisting with hosting regional races such as the NEMBA and NAMBS races of old, up to the National Points Series races and everything else in between.  The forest is the team's local training and riding area and as a result we were proud to be part of the Help for Heroes race weekend to raise not only cash for the charity but the public's awareness.  

If you would like to know more about the work they do please see their website:

Now, on with the racing, here's Nick....

The Hamsterley Forest track has a good mixture in it, it's largely tree covered starting with a series of tight sections through the pine trees and then out over a drop into a swooping berms before hitting a rock garden to catch out the unwary.  This is followed by a neat table top and a flat out sprint to the kicker jump that catapults you across the fire road crossing.  Another rock garden keeps you on your toes and you're into the tight lines through the dark woods of the middle section, it's a tight squeeze in there! 

Another road gap looms, hit it flat out and it's straight into the best section through a series of big rock gardens, the FTW frame was made for this type of course, it was just soaking it all up.  Down over some off camber rocks you're spat back out into a flat out shoot which became progressively faster as practice progressed.  After this it was the infamous S-bend into the drop towards the finish line.

Practice was great, the track was dry as a bone and the uplifts which were being run by the northern downhill guys ran like clock work, perfect! 

The next day though was a different story, yeah you must have guessed it, it decided to rain all day! Having said that, the track still stayed pretty much the same, some roots and rocks got slippier but nothing to worry about, I kept the bike set up as per the previous day. 

Photo by Richard Easton

My first race run was pretty much a steady one with a few slips and swears towards the end which meant I was a few seconds off the pace!  It did however open up more lines to me so I made mental notes and was confident of what I needed to pull out of the bag with the race run.

I gave it absolute hell for leather on the race run and caught someone up at the road crossing, unfortunately it's damned tight in there and he couldn't hear me shouting at him, in the end I took my chance stook my elbows out and barged past.   It was a top run and I was gutted, I knocked 4 seconds off my previous time and it will remain as a 'What if?'  I finished in fourth place and it was a great weekend for a great cause.

Scottish Downhill Series, Round 5, Ae Forest 8th-9th September 2012

Lee here, still waiting for Nick to send me his write up from Ae Forest!  In the meantime enjoy the photography!

Photo by Barry Primrose

Photo by Steve Wyper

Photo by Steve Wyper

Fetish Gravity Enduro Round 5, Dyfi, North Wales 8th - 9th September

Angie takes over the crib:

So this was the final round of the UK Gravity Enduro Series at Dyfi Forest in Wales.  The venue hadn't been used before so everyone was keen to get a look-in and see what it was all about.

Steve and I travelled down on the Thursday night, we got there about 1am so pulled up in a layby on one of the windy narrow roads for the night - I'm pretty impressed that we survived to be fair! ;)

Got up fairly early on Friday morning and got set up in the field, it was a lush start to the day with a beautiful blue sky and the sun was just starting to peek its rays through.  The bikes were soon sorted, had some brekky and hit the trails with the guys.  

It started out on a big old fire-road, little did we know at this point that 98% of the climbs would be on fire-roads.  Forty minutes later we were at the first descent, it was pretty short and absolutely flat out!  Think scree, shale, loose greasy rocks with a good old gradient and you'll get the drift, literally!  Another climb followed, this one was about fifty minutes up and out into the open with some gorgeous views of Cadaer Idris.

Taking in the views on Friday with the guys.  Photo by Sarah Newman

Shot down a totally sweet fast descent, probably my favourite section, however I got a puncture in this stage on my race run, damn it!  Back up another fire road for forty minutes which was followed by another cool descent ending on a super steep rocky spine.  It felt as though I was in a different country at this point, the tracks were crazy, very Alpine.  Another (yep, another one) fifty minute fire-road climb to the top of stage 4, and the top of this section was crackin', picture a steep drop into a stump filled city.  Off camber, rocky, high lines with lots of roots, absolutely amazing!  The middle of this section was not so good however, a steep climb and then a very pedally flat section where I got overtaken in my race run by a certain Miss Newman who seems to have legs with pistons in them!

As for the last fifty minute climb up to Stage 5, oooh I loved this one.  You would have loved it Lee, pure old school-style across fields with flat grassy turns and just making what you could out of the land that was there. This was also the qualifying track, awesome!

After we had rode the track on Friday we got some good rest, managed to go to bed at 8pm and get a good 13 hours sleep in :)  

Saturday was a scorcher, we practised track 1 and 5 and then made our way up for qualifying. I had a good run and got a 5th with some close times to the other girls.

Showing the lads how to do it.  Photo by Dave Ward

Another 12hour sleep followed that night and Sunday morning was an early start.  The girls set off at 9am.  My legs were feeling OK up until Stage 3 when there was that middle section sprint, it was a killer having already sprinted through Stage 2.  

Photo by Dave Ward

I ended up in 6th position overall.  Not where I would have liked to be but it's my first year at Enduro and the Elite category is bloody hard!  I'm working on my fitness more for next year and have already cut out the chocolate.  Ouch!

Sunday night was party night, a good few glasses of red were downed, got drunk and was asleep by 9pm, what a lightweight, it was my birthday weekend after all! :)

British Downhill Series Round 5, Bringewood, 25th-26th August


I was really looking forward to this race event as I had been here a few times as a youngster and really enjoyed the course, it seems to have been off the main map for a while.  It was quite a sodden track due to the previous week's heavy rainfall, it was pretty messed up at the top.  The lower sections weren't too bad though due to the tree cover keeping the rain off, a schizo course!

Due to the state of the track I decided to put full mud spike tyres on.  From the start you hit a few table tops, where I kept it nice n' low, these were followed by some relatively smooth corners the last of which spat you out into two tricky root-strewn off cambers.  These improved over the weekend as a rut developed in them which made it easy to rail through.  The track continued across a fire road and into an open section with a few bus stops, drops and jumps, this bit was the worst part in terms of mud and throughout the weekend it got thicker and thicker.  The track then went back into the woods through pine needle covered tight, twisty and root-strewn sections between the trees. 

Photo copyright of Ian Britton

The track's conditions were steadily improving until the mother of storms hit full on.  The torrential downpours saw quite a few riders going back down in the uplift vehicles but the rest of us who were man-enough went down the track!  It was as slippy as hell in the tree-lined sections, those glistening roots were there to catch everyone out and I must admit to laughing and whooping a fair few times as well!  The rain was actually assisting the course conditions further down, helping to thin out the aforementioned thick mud sections, you could now hit this with aplomb, and splatter the spectators in the process, bonus!

Saturday practice went pretty damn well without any drama.  The bike was working sweet and in particular the Hayes brakes were performing greatly considering the amount of gloop being thrown up which was leaving other riders with problems.  I was also blessed with the awesome damping adjustment on the X-Fusion shock, got the bike really dialled in for the continually changing course conditions.

The track remained sodden all through Sunday so I kept the set-up the same, I took my early run nice and steady and lost a load of time in the open section where the mud had returned to its superglue-like consistency and I didn't want to waste all my energy.  I knew that for seeding this was gonna be a killer sprint.

The only regret I had was not walking the track closer to my race run as the bottom section had dried up a lot and I would have benefited from a cut spike or even a dry tyre.  My race run was flawless, I had nailed the sprinting sections, the bike was hammering it, it was all a perfect run.  Came into the third final corner way too fast, clipped the big root on the entry and ended up getting too friendly with a large tree after my front wheel washed out!  Totally frustrated as the rest of the run was absolutely bang on. The GoPro footage will be on its way soon.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Not ignoring you all.... the middle of a house move, manically unpacking boxes and surrounded by mountains of bubble wrap....bear with me here......

Saturday, 20 October 2012

British Downhill Series 4, Caersws, 5th August 2012

Caersws is a short-course downhill track and that's certainly not a discredit as it's darned fast and keeps you on your toes. Due to the course's short nature the uplifts run really well so you can get plenty of runs in across the weekend. 

Photo courtesy of Andy Whitehouse

Thunderstorms were being forecast for the Saturday which would make riding the course 'interesting' particularly the open grass covered drop into the finish line.  The track was the same route as the previous year taking in the big jumps and the fast-as-hell bus stops, however as the weekend progressed huge braking bumps developed, having said that my X-Fusion shock equipped FB10 was taking it all in its stride, lapping it all up like a kitten with a bowl of cream!

Practise was good, kept my speed up all the way down on most of the runs until later in the day where I hit the tabletop jump a bit too hard resulting in being shot through the following series of s-bends into the lower woods at warp factor 90 where my front wheel washed out.  I kissed the ground really hard, taking a good few fresh mouthfuls of loose dirt, lovely!  Once the stars went out I had pain in my hand and wrist however a few good old painkillers soon sorted that out!

I decided to do one more practise run paying particular care to ensure there was no real damage to my wrist. On the way up I could see the approaching, and predicted, thunderstorm coming in, huge threatening voluminous grey clouds, it was quite a spectacular sight.  I was just hoping upon hoping to get down the course before it hit full on, luckily I did!

Photo by Lucy Drees

After getting back to the pits and cleaning the FB10 the rains came and they were HEAVY! Most of the pits just stood there bemused watching it all fall from the skies.  My thoughts turned to the course and the frustration that after some great practise runs it was now gonna be a wet race, but hey, that's mountain biking for ya, it keeps you fresh!

Sunday morning was pretty damp to say the least so the first run was a steady one.  Where the ground had been really hard the previous day it had developed a layer of slime which would render a spiked mud tyre as useless, the grass section towards the finish line was also challenging.  You had a really fast step-down into a 90 degree berm which shot you out across the off-camber grass section where you could feel your tyres twitching beneath you.  From here it was foot-out-flat-out for a square right corner as the hill steepened and then the opposite foot-out through a left hander before hitting the finish line.  

As the day progressed the track was drying out pretty well, by the time it came to my run it was more or less as dry as the previous day so I was pretty bloody happy about that!  Just before my race run the heaven's opened and the torrential rain hammered down again.  Racing was gonna be exciting no two ways about it, it was now a case of whoever could manage to stay on their bikes, yep, that's how bad it was!  

My god, I took some sketchy lines on my run, scaring myself in places but I knew my bike could handle it.  I shot into the section with the two flat out bus stops, death gripped the bars and tanked down, it was crazy, there was a river of water running down the track!  Slammed myself around the roots in the lower sections, it was a 'do or die', I just cranked it up, hit it and hoped for the best, ended up being thrown all over but stayed upright!  Made it to the field and tried to sprint which was a totally bad idea as the ground was just so sodden, the rear wheel was just churning gloop, spinning out and trying to high-side me.  Once at the fast S-bend, I cranked it hard and it took, got my speed back up and hammered it to the finish line.

I'm still laughing about my race run, it can only be classed as a wild ride, I mean how many races do you do in the middle of a thunderstorm, pure rock'n'roll!  It wasn't a bad run to be honest, I know where I was being cautious and where I was getting on the gas.  In hindsight I was off the pace, being overly cautious in sections where I should have just laid off the brakes and put my full trust into the FB10, those frames can take on anything.  There were several people higher up the results that I normally beat and that little furry highly competitive animal inside me has hit back hard!  

Photo courtesy of Daniel Armishaw

Once the season is over, I have Hamsterley Forest on my doorstep, there's training to be done and I'm going to get very MUDDY!!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Megavalanche, Alpes d'Huez road trip, July 2012

I’m still on a come down, the Mega...where do I start?

I decided to race the Mega last year, it’s the ultimate of enduro events and as soon as the tickets went live my finger was on the buzzer.

"I have no idea what I'm getting myself into..."

Got some of the North-East Massive together, and headed over in a convoy of vans.  Steve and me were upfront followed by Sarah Newman and Helen Gaskell in the ‘Team Weapon’ truck behind, and then Sara and Paul (‘get in ma belly’) Rennie at the back!

Loading up the trucks....

Once out of the Eurotunnel it was then a good nine-hour drive, we spent a few nights ripping up the trails in Morzine.  Absolutely fantastic being in the Alps with a vehicle, before this trip I've always flown over but you can't beat a bit of van-life!!


Got some more good riding in over in Switzerland on the national track and at Les Crosets - not as flat out as on a downhill bike but sure as hell as much fun!  We found a sweet rock-strewn mountain-walkers path to ride down called "GasGas" which lead back to the van by Lac De Montriond – had a quick dip followed by a few beers and a BBQ!  Over the next day we hit up some cross-country trails on Mont Cherry and Les Gets before moving on to La Clusaz.  Turning into an awesome road trip.

So, which way....?


Bombs away chaps....

I think Sarah's hungry....

Best barbie scenery, ever!

Alpine toe nail varnishing....

Et voila....

A big cock....

La Clusaz was a special little place - the guide book said "If you want some proper riding in the Alps with no Brits, go here!".  We parked up by the river but got slightly distracted for four hours by the Crazy Golf :D (Cue: one happy girl).  This was however to be equally balanced out with probably one of the most epic rides yet; a lung-busting uphill climb to around 2,000 metres before swinging around into a huge open valley.  The ride down was amazing, not just the trails but the scenery, needless to say we all got lost many times and ended up at a mountain hut surrounded by vicious cows!

Crazy golf champ....



Mind the vicious cows....


We turned around and climbed back up for another hour, having run out of food and water by this point in a 35-degree heat with no wind I was dragging my heels a tad!  Soon found the main track and rode some the sweetest big mountain riding ever!  Picture some technical rocky singletrack leading out onto a plateau of lush green grassy meadows!  Awesome... absolutely awesome!  We eventually stumbled on a hut selling food and got stitched up big time with an omelette for 50 Euros, WHAT?! Sarah bared her teeth with some pure Scottish grit and got a bit of discount!  Phew, still pricey mind you.

Andddd..... PUSH....

When the ice cream cravings start to kick in....

Steve looks chuffed with his new Yeti...

Ooooh, I spy a possible snowball ambush?!

Can you beat this scenery?

Sara and Paul Rennie taking in the views....

Trail side repairs, the bane of our lives....

Top o'the world!

Next day was a rest day!  We didn't want to screw our legs up too much for the following week! Although we did drive to Chamonix and ride a bit of pump track...would be a shame not to!

Chamonix was a bit on the chilly side, overcast, wet and windy!  It didn't stop us though. Sarah declared that she wanted to smash out a big climb?! Well we sure found her one of those bad boys did we not?  A two-hour non-stop climb up what seemed to be the world’s steepest road (well, maybe I exaggerate a little here). Well worth it though as it was followed by a loose pine needle covered rocky descent with a lovely cliff drop to one side and an amazing view of Mont Blanc!  Good times!

Following the convoy up through the Alps...

Carbo loading, well that's my excuse anyway....

"The hillllsss are alliivveeee.....".....

All too soon we were back on the road to Allemont near Alp D'Huez, where we remained based for the rest of the week with the Megavalanche.

Base camp.....

The next morning we got up super early, Tracy Moseley was camping with us so we were pretty lucky to get to ride with her and see some sweet lines. The top of the Mega at 3,300 metres was EPIC!!! (And that is an understatement!). Freezing cold, amazing views and we were up there with our bikes about to ride down a black-rated Ski run, absolutely BUZZING!!

Sarah and Helen feeling the chill......

I didn't have a clue how to ride in the snow so just went for it, landed on my ass the whole way till Tracy gave us some tips on holding the back brake only and straddling the bike, I got the hang of it eventually!

After the snow you hit the singletrack and oh my god it was just rad, just like riding in the Lake District but on a way, way, WAAAYYYYY bigger scale... cruising down into Alp D'Huez onto a little climb and then pretty much all downhill the rest of the way through the woods into Allemont.... 24km of pure downhill adrenaline-fuelled smiles all round!

Next day we hit up the qualifying track, I found this harder than the Mega track, especially up the top where it was real rocky and loose, the smaller bikes just aren't as stable. A cool track nonetheless but a bit boring toward the bottom.

The rest of the week was spent practicing both tracks and perfecting Slack-Lining in the campsite, having friendly footy matches and eating crepes in the local cafe's!  Life doesn’t get much better than this!

Sarah, Helen and Steve ...van-life......

Ms Moseley slack lining.....

And then Chris showing everyone how it's done....

Friday was qualifying day, my race run was at 1pm.  The girls were last off which was a bit of a bum-deal as the track ended up being cut up with big rock-cookies strewn all over it.  It was a Le Mans-style mass start, all 90 girls together, the gun went and we were out and around the first corner.  Anne Caro, Tracy, Sabrina and the other big dogs were fighting it out up front where I was a being bit more timid, keeping out of the fight. I've since learned if you want to do well and not get held up you need to sharpen your elbows and get stuck straight in!  I had a clean run but slow, after the start I just got stuck behind riders who wouldn't get out the (expletives deleted) way, found it hard to get past them. I qualified 36th out of the 90 odd riders. I wasn't too disappointed but knew I could have done a load better.

The day after was race day, up at 5am, on the bus at 5.30am, up on the gondola at 6am and to the top at 7am...and WOW was it cold! All the girls were huddled up keeping warm in the toilets until it was time to line the bikes up. Racing started at 9am and by then the music was pumping to get you psyched, most people were pretty nervous as you can't really predict what's gonna happen, unlike with a normal downhill race.

And so it begins....

Trying to keep warm in the loo....

How's this for a start line eh?

It wasn't that popular really......quite!

Hell YEAH baby....

Breath taking.....

The gun went and we set off... it had been raining during the night so the snow was slushy. Instead of being able to ride I had to push through it until there was enough gradient to pull you through. I went down the steepest bit and held my line pretty well till a girl took me out sideways hurtling me upside down and using my helmet as a snow plough, the air was turned blue!  Eventually the snow plateaus off and it was here where I lost my shoe whilst running across the flat section, stop laughing you lot!  Being 3,000 metres up I was finding it hard to breathe with the air being so thin, having a full-face helmet on and with the adrenaline pumping away it was quite an experience. You feel like your getting chased down by a pack of hungry wolves, it’s pretty scary.

Hitting the singletrack further down I was concentrating on controlling my breathing, I also got stuck behind a couple of girls eventually getting past I caught some more and got stuck for ages!!  Very frustrating!  Got passed by a girl on a climb and then got stuck behind her on the following downhill, argh, however toward the tree lined section I thought ‘sod it’ and pushed past her, loved the rest of it with no-one in front of me!

You can't stop to take in the scenery this time....
Single track sections...AMAZING....!!

Just a little pootle down a little hill....ahem!

Battered, scarred and bruised but so worth it!

I finished in 1 hour and 17 mins taking the 34th position. I didn't feel that tired, wasn't really out of breath and had no arm-pump which I was expecting...this was my first shot at the event and I learned a lot especially with riding and taking advice from Tracy.  Next year I really need to get amongst it all up front at the start, the ‘take no prisoners approach’, it’s crucial to doing well there ….and I reckon you really ought to be shattered after that!

Angela's Mega Photo courtesy of Xavier Grassone

The whole experience was amazing and I wanted do it all again in a flash! This event is something that I think anyone who rides a bike should have a crack at!

All over.....

Long live the Mega, see you there next year!